Helmets for Micromobility Vehicles
Summary: If you use a bicycle helmet for a micromobility powered vehicle traveling 20 mph (32 kph) or more, you are taking a greater risk than most bicyclists that the helmet will not be adequate for the type of crash you should expect. For reasons explained below we recommend a light motorcycle helmet instead. For low speed powered scooters, CPSC recommends a bicycle helmet.
This page marks the first time we have attempted to offer information for those using vehicles with motors.
Micromobility vehicle use has exploded in the US, including electric scooters, electric bicycles, balance boards and some vehicles powered by small gas engines. The popularity of motorbikes is rising slowly again as well. What helmet do you need for one of those vehicles?
Some micromobility vehicles are no faster than a bicycle, leading to speculation that a bicycle helmet could be adequate. We would not recommend that for the faster ones for several reasons:
These factors would normally lead us to recommend a light motorcycle helmet for motorbikes or Class 3 (28mph) electric vehicles. Helmets meeting any motorcycle helmet standard should be adequate. Class 1 and 2 ebikes are limited to 20mph, where a regular bicycle helmet should be adequate.
Powered ScootersPowered scooters are a different class of vehicle. They are not as fast as motorbikes and motorscooters because they are not stable enough to travel that fast! The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an advisory recommending the use of bicycle helmets for riding powered scooters, along with knee and elbow pads. In 2006 they issued another recommendation that bicycle helmets are fine for low powered motorized scooters.
StandardsThere is no US government standard for light powered vehicles other than the DOT motorcycle helmet standard. The CPSC bicycle helmet standard is required by law for bicycle helmets.
The Snell Foundation, a respected name in helmet standards-setting, published a standard for use with low powered vehicles, mopeds, and motorized bicycles in 1998. Reflecting the factors we noted above, it had lab test drops somewhat higher than bicycle helmet standards at 2.4 meters on the flat anvil and 1.6 meters on anvils of other shapes. It is referred to as Snell L-98. As of February 2010, 12 years after it was adopted, there were no helmets certified to it listed on the Snell website, and it no longer appears on their list.
The Netherlands published their NTA 8776 ebike helmet standard in 2016. It has more stringent requirements than the European bike helmet standard, the CPSC bike standard, Snell's bike helmet standards or any of the ASTM bike standards. Coverage is greater by far, impact velocities are substantially higher and the permissible g level is set at 250g rather than the US 300g. Here is a copy of the standard.
ASTM's F08.53 committee has discussed an ebike helmet standard but has so far decided to take no action.
LawsSome states have adopted laws requiring helmets for ebikes, particularly Class 3 (28mph) ebikes. We have a list of them here. If localities have begun adopting ebike helmets laws we don't have any info on that yet.
Bottom LineA bike helmet provides some protection, but not enough for a powered vehicle consistently traveling at 20 mph or at 28mph in the case of Class 3 ebikes. You are taking a greater risk than a bicyclist that the helmet will not be adequate for the type of crash you should expect. Our advice would be to use a light motorcycle helmet or one that meets the Dutch NTA 8776 standard. There are lots of DOT helmets to choose from at your local motorcycle dealer, or you can find them on the web.
This page was revised on: October 3, 2020.